By Guido D. Corona and Jason Hester

The 4th survey of world-wide trends in the use of screen reader technology for people with visual disabilities (Screen Reader User Survey #4 Results), published in 2012 by WebAim, has detected a rising rate of adoption of mainstream mobile devices by blind individuals. This increase in the mobile adoption rate coincides with a rise in demand for mobile accessibility testing.

In 2008, only 12% of respondents reported the use of a mobile device, while in 2012 adoption rates have risen to 60.8%. In particular, the penetration of Apple’s iOS has grown from an already substantial 30% in 2010 (2008 figures are not available) to a staggering 58% in 2012.

Android, slightly newer to the world of accessibility, is also growing in the blind community, with a modest adoption rate of 4% in 2010, which has almost doubled to 7.9% in 2012. Interestingly, the impressive adoption trend of mobile devices amongst the blind does not appear to underscore a decrease in use of more traditional desktop and laptop computers: The WebAim data indicates that only a minuscule 0.06% of responders rely on mobile devices as their sole information technology.

At Knowbility, we’re not at all surprised by the trend indicated by the WebAim surveys. While requests for accessibility consulting services are growing for legacy platforms like Microsoft Windows and Apple OSX, our customers are rapidly extending their needs for accessible websites and applications to the world of mobile devices, and of iOS in particular.

For the past several months Knowbility has been gearing up to meet the new challenge with a substantial expansion of our test platform inventory. iOS, Android, OSX, and multiple windows versions now allow us to meet all of our customers testing needs for mobile accessibility.

Apple iOS iPhones and iPads are quickly making their way into the Knowbility shop, and are being used for the more experiential aspects of accessibility analysis. While MacBooks running iOS simulators let us dive deeper into the accessibility optimization of iOS apps at an architectural and coding level.

A growing flotilla of Android devices, like the Samsung Galaxy S2 mobile phone and the recent Braille Plus 18 braille and speech smart phone by APH, are enabling the Knowbility team to test and assess new Apps and websites for conformance to mobile accessibility requirements. A growing number of our clients are developing software that caters to the world of Android ranging from the Gingerbread OS through Ice-cream Sandwich and beyond.

Windows 8 Metro-style workstations, and Macs with Mountain Lion, will soon join Knowbility’s cache of target platforms, while the ARM-based versions of Windows 8 unfortunately remain inherently inaccessible, and constitute a challenge for a more accessible future.